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Women’s Freedom Center celebrates its new name with gala at NEYT

BRATTLEBORO—“Freedom Now!” was the chant that came up from the 130 people packed into the New England Youth Theatre.

The Women’s Freedom Center, formally known as the Women’s Crisis Center, celebrated its name change on Friday night with music sung by The Brattleboro Women’s Chorus, a hula hoop performance, short films, a “freedom shoutout,” and a performance by singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst.

The name change represents more for the nearly-40-year-old center than swapping one word for another or mark the Freedom Center ceasing to support women experiencing crisis.

It’s quite the opposite. The change represents the Freedom Center’s commitment to helping the women it works with to do more than survive a crisis but thrive with a capital “T.”

The name change, said Freedom Center advocates, marks a shift in focus from “crisis” to “freedom,” specifically freedom from men’s violence.

“I’m here [tonight] for my mother, and for my sister, and for my daughter,” said Board Chair Marilyn Buhlmann.

“And the Women’s Freedom Center is here for your mothers, your sisters, and your daughters,” she told the audience.

After the event, Donna Macomber, Freedom Center’s co-director, said she felt blessed to live in such a generous community.

“We’re pretty thrilled. It [the event] was really wonderful for us,” said Macomber.

She said audience members told her they felt moved by being let in on the thinking behind the name change. Macomber said that she and the other advocates recognize that it’s hard for people to think about a hard topic like violence on a Friday night.

But, she said, the night was about celebrating where women had been and where they were going.

Macomber said she was also grateful to the officers of the Brattleboro Police Department, Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver and Roderick Bates, community corrections district manager for the Vermont Department of Corrections who attended the celebration in a “fantastic show of support.”

The Freedom Center will continue to turn its focus the specifics of freedom, like economic self-sufficiency, said Macomber, though offering workshops and events to women.

The center has two more “freedom series” coming up, as well as film nights. Macomber said many of the women who first worked with the Freedom Center when they were experiencing a crisis like to reconnect with the center in a fun way.

The center will continue its work with incarcerated women, many of whom disclose they had been in violent relationships with men. 

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Macomber.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #86 (Wednesday, February 2, 2011).

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